LEWISTON — Was winning an Eastern Class A hockey championship this easy, or did Lewiston High School just make it look that way?
To hear coach-by-night, attorney-by-day Jamie Belleau make the case, neither.
"We got some breaks, which is kind of nice after the schedule we played. It's a cliche, but a lot of championship-caliber teams get a break along the way," Belleau said. "We got some breaks tonight, and that's great. Bangor played us really well. We did enough to win."
Did enough to put it away in the first period Tuesday night at Androscoggin Bank Colisee, actually. Only Belleau, Yogi Berra and Lenny Kravitz would have been cradling the it-ain't-over-'til-it's-over card between sweaty fingers.
The rest of us saw a series of bizarre bounces, deflections off Bangor skates and can't-miss interceptions inside the blue line build a 4-0 lead in the first 11 minutes, 35 seconds, and we knew it was tout fini.
Mostly because we'd seen the first two segments of the trilogy. Lewiston's eventual 5-1 victory was stressful as a root canal and a calculus exam, combined, compared to a quarterfinal clobbering of Edward Little and semifinal shellacking of Brunswick.
Lewiston breezed through the regional tournament by an aggregate score of 24-2, which is even more impressive when you scratch your head and give it perspective. Imagine a football team in the playoffs punishing every opponent by seven touchdowns, or a basketball team cutting down the nets after winning each game by 40 or more points.
On paper, the Blue Devils stormed into Saturday's state final against Falmouth with a one-sided fury unseen since before any of the current players were born.
"I was very surprised at how much it's gone toward us and how it's helped us," said sophomore Kyle Ullrich, one of five different Devils to score a goal against Bangor. "It's just us playing better than at the beginning of the year and us working harder and harder every time."
Lewiston's body of work against conference opponents this winter was ripped, to say the least. With the bashing of Bangor, the Blue Devils improved to 12-0-1 against Eastern Class A opponents. They beat the Rams three times, outscoring them 12-3.
Four times, if you count the money-grab glorified exhibition known as the KVAC championship. Oh, and Lewiston does, particularly to the extent that it helped the Devils maintain their attention to detail when it looked as if they would chase Bangor through the nearest swinging doors and onto their charter bus before the first intermission.
"That was definitely on our mind the whole time," said junior Kyle Lemelin, who added another goal and assist to his team-leading totals. "In the KVAC game we came out 4-0 and they came back and it was 4-3 in the third. We knew it could happen because it already happened."
OK, and to be fair, it could have happened again without Evan Bourassa's 35 saves, and without Bangor getting goaded into a couple of foolish penalties that shortened power plays in the second and third periods.
There were macabre moments in this weird, wacky game in which Bangor looked like the aggressor, or even a supremely confident team that you might have assumed was up three or four goals if you'd been dropped in from another planet mid-game.
Surely Belleau would love it if we'd look beyond the scores and see between those lines, rather than dwell on the bottom-line details that would threaten to give any team a swelled head. Right, coach?
"Bangor's a really talented team. They lost two or three games all year," Belleau said. "They were going to empty their tank. They did and we held on, and that's what you've got to do to win championships."
Nobody in their right mind expected 5-1. No rational thinkers dreamed up 10-0 over Brunswick or even 9-1 at Edward Little's expense.
Those were close games for a period, even two, during the regular season. Not laughers. Not the kind of wins that would have inspired old-timers to start thinking of this Lewiston team in historic terms.
The rematches were, ahem, easy. Now comes the hard part. Almost guaranteed. No coach-speak or courtroom-speak necessary.
Lewiston's lone losses this season were to Tuesday night's Western Maine finalists, Scarborough and Falmouth. The Devils and Yachtsmen split their home-and-home series. And that state game is a hurdle that the Blue Devils have failed to clear multiple times since their most recent title in 2002.
"I was there freshman year, but it doesn't sink in as much as it does now," Lemelin said. "It definitely will be a little more comfortable, but the nerves are still there. It's still a state title game and the biggest game you'll ever play in your life."
There's a reasonable train of thought that Lewiston has arrived at the mountaintop a year ahead of schedule.
Bourassa, backup Brian Wigant and forwards Tanner Hubbard, Cam Marquis and Bryan Hall are the only seniors.
"It's been a long season. A lot of people didn't think this team was going to get here. It wasn't pretty, but we did it," Belleau said. "If we play a sound hockey game, make them go 200 feet, I'll take my chances against anybody with this team. They work really hard. Even when things aren't necessarily going their way, they don't stop working."
And when the puck does slide the Devils' way, well, it looks downright scary.
Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.